Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Historic Preservation

Committee Member

Dr. Carter L. Hudgins, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Katherine Saunders Pemberton

Committee Member

Ralph Muldrow


The gritty, authentic quality of the alleys, lanes, and work yards that channeled the day-to-day routines of Charleston's working class and poor fascinated and inspired writers, poets, and artists during the decades that followed World War I. Charleston's alleys, particularly those South of Broad, were often the subject of romantic celebration. A far more common secondary urban street form, the court, has, in contrast, received neither popular or scholarly attention. The courts of Charleston are short, narrow pedestrian streets that pierce the center of residential blocks, historically lined with small houses and tenements that housed the city's labor force, recent immigrants, and African Americans. The houses, typically eight to ten, are turned gable end towards the street and are derivatives of the Charleston Single House and the Charleston Cottage forms. This tight residential pattern encouraged a sense of community and longevity unique to other urban environments. This study explores several urban processes, one of them the development of the interior of residential blocks and the appearance of the court in the post-bellum era, the morphology, demographic character, and significance of the form. The results indicate the alley and court appeared in two distinct waves. Both courts and alleys were planned forms within Charleston's city walls. When the city responded to a post-bellum influx in population, the court flourished a second time because it could be quickly created and easily managed by a neighboring landlord. By collaborating with urban planners, commissions, and historic preservation organizations, Charleston can learn more about the role of alleys and courts, their decline, and advantages of using them to address contemporary urban planning issues.